There seem to be an infinite number of brands within the ChiFi market. From industry giants such as MoonDrop to unpronounceable names like BQEYZ, there’s no shortage of companies looking to make their mark in the in-ear monitor (IEM) space. Hidizs is one such company. They’re a name that might be familiar to some more acquainted with ChiFi thanks to several Kickstarter projects. Not satisfied with their place in the market, Hidizs is back with their latest product: the Hidizs MS5 “Dark Angel”.
The MS5 is a 4 BA + 1 DD hybrid IEM with three tuning filters, priced at $500 MSRP but is on pre-sale for $379 until May 5th. That is a very challenging price point considering the plethora of options available. But Hidizs has a trick up their sleeve: a fancy marketing campaign. They hosted a Free Global Public Review program where 40 reviewers were invited to review the MS5. In fact, there’s a good chance this isn’t the first time you’re reading about the MS5, as they requested reviews be posted on April 21, creating a flood of these reviews floating around on various sites. But how good is the MS5 really? Is Hidizs warranted in their confidence to send 40 different people a free review unit? Let’s take a look.
Source(s): Apple USB-C dongle
Review unit provided by Hidizs
What’s in the Box?
The accessory package that comes with the Hidizs MS5 is fairly nice. You get:
- 3 sets of S/M/L tips labeled as balanced, vocal, and bass ear tips. They look like fairly generic tips but there are minor differences in the height and stiffness of the core. I found that I had to use the vocal tips for best comfort.
- Three tuning modules: red (bass), rose gold (balanced), and silver (treble). They’re screw-on nozzles that attenuate the treble using a black filter inside. Note that they are 6 mm in diameter which may be an issue for some.
- A 2-pin 8-core braided cable. I quite like this cable except for the fact that it’s rather bulky and heavy. It has no cable memory at all, which is excellent, but does have a bit of cable noise.
- A simple flip-top zipper carrying case. Large enough to easily accommodate the MS5 and its bulky cable. You won’t be pocketing this, however.
- The MS5 itself. Admittedly, it’s a unique looking IEM. The large black ridges obscuring a perforated rose gold plate is meant to give it the look of angel wings - hence Hidizs dubbing it the MS5 “Dark Angel”. It’s built out of aluminum and feels substantial. Though it is a bit of a larger IEM, I didn’t really have any complaints in terms of comfort.
One thing I wanted to note was the sensitivity of the Hidizs MS5. It will magnify any hissing in your set-up. The Apple USB-C dongle easily takes care of this problem but you might hear it if your big desktop amp has some electric noise.
Sound and Frequency Response Analysis
Frequency response of the Hidizs MS5 with the balanced tuning filters. Measurement taken with an IEC-711 clone microphone. Comparisons can only be made relative to other measurements taken by this specific microphone. A peak at about 8 – 10 kHz is likely an artifact of the measurement rig and may not exist as depicted here. Measurements above 8 kHz are not accurate. If possible, reference multiple measurements.
I always listen before measuring and normally like to give a snippet of its sound before showing the graph. This time however, I felt that seeing the graph upfront will help make everything make more sense. Clearly, this is not a normal looking graph. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an IEM with an upper mids structure like that before. Let me translate what this means.
The MS5 is an almost overbearingly bassy IEM. It has a bass shelf that starts at the 500 Hz mark and bleeds into the midrange. Given how the subbass extends deep into the lowest octaves, it shifts the bass focus of the MS5 into the lower frequencies. For the most part, the MS5 is surprisingly controlled and fairly articulate if the track is less busy or tightly mixed, such as with synths or electronic samples. The sheer amount of bass on display can be satisfying. But in tracks where the kick drum is already pushed to its limit, the MS5’s significant low end can cause them to be muddied and excessively boomy, with a pillowy loss of definition due to the midrange bloom. The other major knock against it is its one-notedness in how it tints bass notes to its particular timbre.
The midrange tonality is compromised and vocals are particularly challenged. It’s overly thick with too much lower mids around the 400 Hz mark coupled with a lack of upper treble harmonics. For singers that possess a strong, clear voice that naturally cuts through the mix, it isn’t too much of an issue as 3 kHz+ frequencies are preserved. But for vocalists that are less intelligible to begin with, especially males with lower ranges, the MS5 practically buries them due to a lack of energy in the 1 - 2 kHz region. Similarly, snare drums lack their distinction crack and sound muted. Stringed instruments sound saturated with an excess of acoustic body. Electric guitars however can benefit from this odd tuning. The MS5 emphasizes both distorted body tones and screaming lead lines.
Frankly, I don’t know what to make of the treble. While there’s the occasional burst of sharp peaks and sibilance, it doesn’t sound quite as bright as the graph might indicate. The significant roll-off in the upper treble that makes the MS5 lose vibrancy in its treble notes. More concerningly, hats and cymbals are poorly rendered on the MS5. Notes are smeared with little definition to convey any musical information. It’s all so strangely washed out.
On a technical level, the MS5 doesn’t do too badly for itself. The soundstage is above average, the imaging is nuanced with easy instrument placement, and its resolution does pick up some of the subtler instrument lines that are missed by lesser IEMs. Despite all of its tonal issues, I never get the sense that the MS5 is struggling to keep up with the music. I’d say it’s not too far off an IEM like the DUNU SA6. A solid B for its price bracket; you can do much worse.
I will admit, even though I had a bit of an allergic reaction when I first listened to the MS5, after a few days I finally got used to its timbral deficiencies and started to enjoy listening to music with the MS5 a little. The unabashedly bassy response paired with the saturated midrange has a certain charm when revisiting familiar songs. But the MS5 doesn’t ever elevate itself above average no matter how much time I spend with it. It’s more of a “oh this is better than I expected” type of feeling.
As mentioned at the start of this article, the Hidizs MS5 does come with three tuning modules. Here’s how they compare on a graph.
That’s right. The only difference between the tuning modules is a slight variation in the mid-treble. These differences are appreciable but not meaningful. I didn’t particularly prefer one of the modules versus another and kept it simple with the balanced module.
Should You Buy It?
No. In an ultra-competitive market, Hidizs put an underweight contender in the ring and hoped a heavy-handed marketing campaign would draw an audience. It’s a classic case of marketing over function not unlike those Raycon earbuds ads you see littered all over YouTube. It’s a shame because I think Hidizs has what it takes to make some genuinely good products. But this mistaken focus on marketing rather than proper sound quality development isn’t the way to get there.
Importantly, there are some conflict-of-interest disclaimers any reader of an MS5 article should know about. Unlike most ChiFi companies that wordlessly send their products for review, Hidizs has come in with all sorts of tracked links, affiliate discount codes, and dedicated hashtags. They’ve even gone so far to offer a small percentage back to reviewers for any sales using their discount code. Though Hidizs never mandated that reviews be positive, it still puts reviewers in a tough spot and calls into question the authenticity of any positive MS5 review. Campaigns like this hurt everyone in the hobby.
But if you’ve read all of this and still want to buy a Hidizs MS5, here is a non-affiliate discount code for 5% off your purchase: 5OFF. I hope you enjoy it more than I did.